FOR MORE THAN JUST FLOWERS
Easy Ways to Attract and Keep Butterflies in Your Garden
Story and photos by Joshua Kornegay
It's a delight to see butterflies in the garden. But how to keep them there? It's easier than you think. The key is to have the two different plants they like. One is the nectar plant. There are hundreds of different plant species that can offer this life-giving sweet substance, including the butterfly bush, lantana, pentas, liatris, coreopsis, and purple coneflower. Pictured on these pages are just a few reliable and easy to grow perennials that can accomplish that.
The other and more important key are the host plants. Each butterfly species relies on a very specific plant species on which to oviposit her eggs. The monarch, for example, will only lay her eggs on a suitable place for her caterpillars to eat. In this case it's the Asclepius genus. There are many species in this plant family but they still must be milkweed Asclepids for the caterpillars to survive.
Almost all insects are very picky in this respect and are species specific about the plants they require to complete their life cycle.
Another example is the pipevine swallowtail. After mating the female will only lay eggs on the plants she knows will provide food for her soon to hatch offspring. In this case it’s the Aristolochia genus, also known as Dutchman’s pipes because of the flower shape; hence the name “pipevine” for the butterflies.
The Gulf fritillary butterfly must find passion vines on which to lay her eggs. It's the only plant the caterpillars will eat; nothing else. The eastern black swallowtail is a little less picky but the plant selection must still be in the dill, fennel or parsley families. Easy right?
So plant nectar-rich flowers to attract the butterflies, but plant their host plants to keep them around. These two rules are all you need for a garden full of different butterflies.
Remember, "Work less, enjoy more!"
Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden Antiques, Inc. can be found at 502 West 18th, 713-862-7444, www.joshuasnativeplants.net